Social Engineering Attacks: Common Types and How to Prevent Them

The phrase "social engineering" describes a wide variety of malevolent behaviors that may be carried out through interactions with other people. It employs deception to fool users into failing to take proper security precautions or disclosing private information.

There might be several phases to a social engineering attack; before launching an assault, criminal profiles the target to learn details like access points and security flaws. The attacker then takes steps to acquire the victim's trust and provides stimuli for further acts that violate security norms, such as disclosing sensitive information or providing access to key resources.

What is a Social Engineering Attack?

Attacks based on social engineering frequently use deceit and other types of psychological manipulation to coerce users or workers into revealing private information. This is done to accomplish the goal of the attack, which is to gain access to private information. In the field of social engineering, popular tactics include the use of emails and several other types of communication. The target is made to feel a sense of urgency, panic, or other emotions similar to these to coerce the target into divulging sensitive information, clicking on a malicious link, or downloading a malicious file as quickly as possible. These methods aim to induce the target to feel a sense of urgency, panic, or other similar emotions. Because of the presence of humans in these situations, it can be difficult for businesses to protect themselves successfully against social engineering attempts.

Attacks Based on social engineering

There is no place that is immune to social engineering assaults since they may be carried out in any situation where people interact with one another. The five most popular kinds of social engineering attacks in the digital realm are as follows.


Baiting assaults, as their name suggests, are launched by promising something of value to the target but then delivering something else in order to appeal to their greed or curiosity. They're luring people into a trap where their data will be stolen, or their computers will be infected with malware.

Infamy surrounds the use of tangible material to spread malware through baiting. For instance, attackers often place the bait, which consists of malware-infected flash drives, in very visible places (e.g., bathrooms, elevators, and the parking lot of a targeted company). The bait appears genuine, with details like a label claiming to represent the company's payroll list.

People take the bait because they are curious and accidentally install malware on their home or office computers.

The physical world is not required for a successful baiting fraud. Baiting is a sort of online fraud in which people are tricked into visiting harmful websites or downloading malware-infected software by the use of deceptively appealing advertisements.


The victims of scareware are constantly barraged with fake warnings and nonexistent dangers. Cybercriminals can trick users into downloading and installing malicious software or useless applications by making them believe their computer is afflicted with malware. Deceptionsoftware, bogus antivirus programs, and fraudware are all other names for scareware.

The "Your computer may be infected with nasty spyware applications" popups that appear in your browser while you're online are a classic example of scareware. Either it will offer to install the utility (which is usually tainted with malware) for you, or it will lead you to a malicious website where your machine will be attacked.

It's not uncommon for scareware to be spread via spam emails that purport to provide false warnings or offer potentially dangerous services for a fee.

The attacker uses a succession of well-designed falsehoods, "pretexts," for information. In many cases, the scammer will pretend to need the victim's personal information in order to complete some urgent duty.

The attacker often gains the victim's trust by pretending to be someone they know and trust, such as someone in a position of authority at work, in the police, at a financial institution, or in the tax department. By asking inquiries that seem necessary to verify the victim's identification, the pretext is able to glean sensitive information.

All types of essential information and data are acquired utilizing this fraud, such as social security numbers, personal addresses and phone numbers, phone records, employee vacation dates, bank records, and even security information relating to a physical plant.


As one of the most prominent social engineering attack types, phishing scams are email and text message campaigns intended to establish a sense of urgency, curiosity, or anxiety in victims. It then attempts to trick the user into divulging personal information, visiting malicious websites, or downloading dangerous attachments.

An example is an email sent to subscribers of an online service that warns them of a policy violation requiring prompt action on their side, such as a necessary password change. It contains a link to a fake website that looks almost exactly like the real one, and it asks the user to log in with their existing credentials and a new password. When a user submits a form, it gives the attacker access to their personal details.

Given that identical or near-identical messages are delivered to all users in phishing campaigns, identifying and banning them is considerably easier for mail servers having access to threat sharing systems.

Targeted Email Attacks, or Spear Phishing

In this variation of the phishing scam, a target is a specific person or company. Then, they personalize their attacks by sending messages that reflect the victim's unique traits, profession, and circle of acquaintances. Spear phishing takes far more time and effort on the part of the attacker, often spanning many weeks or months. If done correctly, they have a substantially higher success rate and are much tougher to detect.

An attacker using spear phishing may email a few workers pretending to be the company's IT consultant. It is written and signed in the consultant's typical style, giving the impression that it came directly from them. The letter advises the target to update their password and includes a link to a rogue website where the attacker may steal their information.